Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

What Constitutes Meaningful Participation?, Part 3

Posted by nathanpowers22 on April 3, 2017

In the latter portion of Spreadable Media’s 4th chapter, I thought the section under “Everyday Patterns of Co-creation” that discussed the need for quotability and “grabbability” in spreading media to be somewhat obvious, but interesting in the context of developments since the book’s publication. Specifically, I’m talking about the popularization of Vine (and its replacements on Twitter and Instagram) and Snapchat. While brevity is not an explicit aspect of the spreadable equation suggested in the book, it has undoubtedly helped the massive, widespread acceptance of sharing media content in this way. Though some may attribute the success of these companies to the short attention spans of the nebulously defined “millennial” demographic, I would argue that the length of video clips shared (and pictures viewed, for Snapchat) began forcing content creators to pare and condense their ideas down into their most quotable and grabbable essences in the same way that Twitter’s arbitrary 140-character limit does for text-based media.

Furthermore, these social media networks have embraced participatory culture to the extreme, in the sense that the “audience” is truly the product in many regards. Because the foundations of these platforms are the interpersonal relationships of an individual user (for Snapchat more so than Vine), they tend to be a notable, if not primary, source of entertainment. This ties into the concept of “produsage” posited by Axel Bruns in that while many users lurk, those that use Snapchat or Vine to its fullest capacity are required to produce something of value to someone—whether that “something” be an image, video, and/or caption, and whether that “value” is personal or commercial. Aside from those participants that achieve celebrity through fan engagement with their content (e.g. “Vine stars” and “Instagram models”), the utilization of participatory culture for marketable gain can be seen especially well on Snapchat. Beyond featuring filters that promote sponsored content, Snapchat also frequently features clips from “average” users in “stories” around cultural events ranging from things like the 2016 presidential election to this year’s Wrestlemania.


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